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School choice: Is there really choice?

By DR. ED NICHOLS
Superintendent of Madison City Schools

In the next few weeks, you’re going to hear a great deal from the Governor and the Alabama Legislature about School Choice. There will be catch phrases like parents deserve a choice and you should get to choose.

Don’t be fooled by these terms because school choice does not mean every parent can get money and take their child to any school they choose. It means that if you can pay the additional tuition, provide transportation and don’t have students with challenges like special education, English Language Learners, and other areas, then you might get to choose if the school chooses you. In fact, what school choice will become is NIL (similar to Name Image Likeness rights in college sports) for a few. For most it will have no impact and your locally underfunded school district will still face the everyday challenges created by the Alabama Legislature.

Alabama School districts spend countless dollars of local money each year that the state does not fully fund. This includes areas such as transportation, special education, school nurses, school safety, EL learners and so much more. A “School Choice” plan could also mean that the public’s money will go to institutions that are not required to meet the accountability expectation of the Alabama Legislature. Currently, such legislatively-imposed requirements are the Literacy Act and Numeracy Act, ACAP and ACT testing, and making sure all schools get a grade card from the state so that public funds for education are accountable.

It is only fair that any school receiving public funds plays by the rules created by the Legislature. For instance, all K-3rd grade programs receiving public funds should meet the requirements and paperwork of the Alabama Literacy Act. If private schools and other entities receiving these funds don’t have to meet these standards, is that fair?

My hope is that the members of the Legislature will have the same backbone as the ones in Texas. Governor Abbott, like Governor Ivey, pushed School Choice for eight months, but when it came to a vote of the Texas legislators, they said no this isn’t right and it’s not fair.

I hope public school parents and teachers in Alabama reach out and make their voices heard like the parents and teachers did in Texas.

Come on Alabama, stand up like Texas and say NO!

Dr. Ed Nichols is superintendent of Madison City Schools

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